Saturday, February 19, 2011

Review: The Adventures of Ellery Queen

Some old-time radio shows are hard to review, I've found (in my mind, anyway) because the shows might run a total of 10 years but (A) only a few are available for us to listen to or (B) the format changed two or three times or (C) the stars of the shows changed often.

The Adventures of Ellery Queen happens to encase all three of these criteria.  So I am shooting from what I have heard and from what I have read.  That doesn't necessarily mean it's anywhere close to being how it actually was because our ears are the only real judge.

The show began in the late 1930's and starred Santos Ortega as Inspector Ellery Queen.

The structure of the show was such: first there was a short mystery.  It would end before the solution was resolved.  The twist was, various "armchair detective" celebrities would be seated backstage and at the end of the play would go on live to explain who they thought the perpetrator of the crime was.

During the first four months of the show, every guest panelist was wrong except one, playwright Lillian Hellman.   Of course it didn't help that the show's guests included the likes of Ed Garder (Archie of Duffy's Tavern) and other comedic ilk.

Due to the bad showing of the stars, the show switched to having various studio audience members reveal the solution.  That was even worse because the audience members were generally petrified to talk on radio and mumbled and fumbled and yes, were also wrong.

Then the show switched again; going for broke, they invited lively radio and film stars - and no matter if they were right or wrong, no one cared because they were very entertaining on the show.  This lot included people like Orson Welles, Fred Allen, Mel Blanc, Hildegarde, John Wayne and Jane Russell.

For what it's worth, I am always wrong about the solution as well (and generally am in detective stories) as they are so convoluted to begin with - designed to throw even the expert off track.  (See Raymond Chandler's stories.)

No harm, no foul.  Because of the age of the show and not-so-great sound quality, I give the show 2 maybe 2 and a quarter stars.


  1. My one note on this one: Often you can not solve the mystery as they left out important facts or fact. You and the guest are working thin information. When Ellery get back and tells you why so and so did it, you say to yourself, why didn't they tell us that before we tried to solve the crime. That has been my experience. However, it is somewhat fun to hear why people think it is a certain suspect and their reasoning.

  2. I've noticed this also - on all mysteries. Or the main fact is so small you don't even recognize the fact...


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